Urbanization in History: A Process of Dynamic Interactions

By A. M. Van Der Woude; Akira Hayami et al. | Go to book overview

6 The German Urban Network between the Sixteenth and Eighteenth Centuries Cultural and Demographic Indicators

ÉTIENNE FRANÇOIS Unité de Formation et de Recherche des Sciences Historiques et Geographiques, Université de Nancy ll, Nancy, France

The index that is generally employed in the study of urban networks is the size of a town's population: it is simple, easily measured, and can be universally applied. However, is this index really as valuable as it would seem at first sight? Does not its very simplicity sometimes blur a proper understanding of the structures that it is designed to explain? Would it not be better if other statistical indicators could also be used to help us in appreciating the true nature of urban networks and their dynamics? If so, what indicators should be employed?

I shall use the German urban network between the sixteenth and eighteenth centuries as an example to illustrate these points. There are a number of numerical indicators for this period which can be represented both in the form of statistical tables and as maps, and which are very different in nature. There is the demographic indicator, which is generally used, i.e. the size of the population of the principal German towns in about 1600 and about 1800; there are also certain 'cultural' indicators which illustrate the dynamics of intellectual life at the time and give information about publishing activities in the same cities.

I shall begin by summarizing the changes which occurred in the urban network and the urban hierarchy between these two dates by using the demographic indicator, i.e. population size. I shall then proceed to investigate the extent to which the conclusions drawn from this analysis are confirmed by information obtained from indicators of cultural activities, and attempt to show that by employing a combination of these two indicators a better understanding of the structure of the German urban network and its transformation to modern conditions can be achieved.


I

We begin our analysis with Map 6.1 on which all German cities with a population of 10,000 or more inhabitants in about 1600 are shown. This map

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